Self-cleaning ovens can make the process of keeping an oven clean much easier. This type of electric oven features a cleaning cycle in which the oven heats up to a much higher temperature than used for baking, and any debris or spills in the oven turn to ash. Unfortunately, this type of oven doesn't clean itself as completely as you might desire. Self-cleaning ovens have a number of downsides. Knowing them can help you choose the right oven and cleaning method for your needs.
Self-cleaning ovens reach extremely high temperatures--about 900 degrees Fahrenheit according to Ovenu. They maintain these temperatures for three to four hours. Most self-cleaning ovens include a door-locking mechanism that prevents homeowners or children from accidentally opening the oven during the cleaning cycle, but the surface of the oven may still get very hot. If the oven is very dirty, or contains greasy spills, it may also emit unpleasant-smelling smoke, which may act as an irritant for people who already have respiratory problems. The smoke from very dirty self-cleaning ovens can also irritate the eyes. According to General Electric, some pet birds are very sensitive to the fumes emitted by self-cleaning ovens and may die or become seriously ill.
Ideally, you should run the cleaning cycle on most self-cleaning ovens once a week. However, many homeowners run these cycles less frequently. Even when used as recommended, self-cleaning ovens may not clean themselves completely. According to General Electric, these ovens may leave a white ash in the oven or white salt deposits that the oven cycle cannot remove. In some cases, the cleaning cycle may not burn up all debris, and another cleaning cycle is required. In many ovens, the cycle cannot clean the oven racks, and you must wash them by hand.
According to Consumer Energy Center, self-cleaning ovens often use much less energy for baking than conventional ovens. However, the cleaning cycle is usually very energy intensive. Consumer Energy Center notes that using the self-cleaning option more than once per month causes these ovens to use more energy than a conventional unit, which can increase electricity bills significantly. As of 2010, Energy Watcher estimates the cost of using a self-cleaning oven at $2.50 per hour or 25 kilowatts an hour at $.10 per kilowatt hour. Energy Watcher recommends running a cleaning cycle immediately after baking in the oven to reduce costs by using residual oven heat.